In some places your property is never really your property. Washington DC is such a place.
In recent years the DC government has sold tax liens to collection agencies in an effort to recoup back taxes. Often the people who can’t pay the taxes are old or infirm or both. Many times the collection agencies move to foreclose if they can’t squeeze the back taxes from the residents. Of the 200 or so people who lost homes this way in DC in recent years The Washington Post reports 1/3 owed less than $1000.
When the homes are foreclosed on, the owners of the property lose all their equity, in many cases the only wealth people have ever had.
(From The Washington Post)
On the day Bennie Coleman lost his house, the day armed U.S. marshals came to his door and ordered him off the property, he slumped in a folding chair across the street and watched the vestiges of his 76 years hauled to the curb.
Movers carted out his easy chair, his clothes, his television. Next came the things that were closest to his heart: his Marine Corps medals and photographs of his dead wife, Martha. The duplex in Northeast Washington that Coleman bought with cash two decades earlier was emptied and shuttered. By sundown, he had nowhere to go.
All because he didn’t pay a $134 property tax bill.